'Crossing The Water' by Sylvia Plath

AI and Tech Aggregator
Download Mp3s Free
Tears of the Kingdom Roleplay
Best Free University Courses Online
TOTK Roleplay

The Collected Poems1962Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people.
Where do the black trees go that drink here?
Their shadows must cover Canada.A little light is filtering from the water flowers.
Their leaves do not wish us to hurry:
They are round and flat and full of dark advice.Cold worlds shake from the oar.
The spirit of blackness is in us, it is in the fishes.
A snag is lifting a valedictory, pale hand;Stars open among the lilies.
Are you not blinded by such expressionless sirens?
This is the silence of astounded souls.

Editor 1 Interpretation

Crossing The Water: A Masterpiece of Poetic Disillusionment by Sylvia Plath

Sylvia Plath is one of the most celebrated poets of the 20th century, and her work has left an indelible mark on the literary world. Her collection, Crossing The Water, is a masterful exploration of the inner turmoil and disillusionment that plagued Plath throughout her life.

In this in-depth literary criticism and interpretation of Crossing The Water, we will explore the themes, motifs, and imagery that Plath employs to convey her complex emotional landscape.

Background and Context

Before delving into the details of the collection, it is important to understand the context in which it was written. Plath was born in 1932 in Boston, Massachusetts and grew up in a middle-class family. Her father, a German immigrant and professor of entomology, died when she was only eight years old, leaving a deep emotional scar on her psyche.

Plath was a gifted writer from a young age and began publishing her work in national magazines by the time she was a teenager. She attended Smith College on a scholarship and won a prestigious Fulbright scholarship to study at Cambridge University in England.

It was during her time in England that Plath met and married the poet, Ted Hughes. The two had a tumultuous relationship, marked by infidelity and emotional abuse. Plath suffered from depression and attempted suicide several times, ultimately succeeding in taking her own life in 1963.

Crossing The Water was published posthumously in 1971, along with her other collection Ariel. The poems in Crossing The Water were written between 1961 and 1962, during a particularly difficult time in Plath's life.

Themes and Motifs

One of the central themes of Crossing The Water is disillusionment. Plath's poetry is marked by a sense of disappointment with the world and a feeling of despair at the futility of life. This is particularly evident in poems like "The Moon and the Yew Tree," in which the speaker laments the emptiness of the natural world:

This is the light of the mind, cold and planetary
The trees of the mind are black. The light is blue.
The grasses unload their griefs on my feet as if I were God
Prickling my ankles and murmuring of their humility
Fumy, spiritous mists inhabit this place
Separated from my house by a row of headstones.
I simply cannot see where there is to get to.

The sense of isolation and hopelessness in this poem is palpable. The yew tree, a symbol of death and mourning, looms over the speaker, casting a shadow of despair on everything around it.

Another motif that runs throughout the collection is water. Water can be both a symbol of life and of death, and Plath uses it to great effect in her poetry. In "Blackberrying," for example, the speaker describes a journey through a landscape of brambles and thorns, culminating in a view of the sea:

The heart of the townland
That was how it all began,
A line of grey water
Snagged on the horizon,
A fishing cork
Uttering its own dark
Mythology on the water.

The fishing cork symbolizes the fragility of human life, bobbing on the surface of the sea like a tiny vessel in a vast and uncaring universe.

A third motif that appears frequently in Crossing The Water is death. Plath was obsessed with death throughout her life, and her poetry is filled with images of decay and decomposition. In "The Night Dances," for example, the speaker describes a dance of death that takes place in the darkness:

A smile
Creeps over the mouth's
Edge, as if
The sunken jawbone
Were laughing.

The image of the sunken jawbone laughing is haunting and unsettling, suggesting a deep sense of nihilism and despair.

Imagery and Language

One of the most striking features of Plath's poetry is her use of vivid, sensory imagery. She is a master of metaphor and symbolism, and her language is rich and evocative. In "Watercolor of Grantchester Meadows," for example, she describes the landscape with a painter's eye:

A lover of light,
I entered alone
A world of blades,
Dazzling as swords,
And blue as iodine.

The imagery here is both beautiful and ominous, with the blades and swords suggesting danger and violence lurking beneath the surface.

Plath's poetry is also marked by a sense of musicality and rhythm. She was a skilled musician and often approached her poetry with a musician's ear for sound and cadence. In "The Beekeeper's Daughter," for example, she uses repetition and assonance to create a hypnotic, almost incantatory effect:

The bees are flying. They taste the spring.
They are circling round the waxen world.
The drone of the machines is in their ears,
A nuclear intuitive buzz
And a summer madness.

The repetition of the "b" and "s" sounds creates a sense of buzzing and humming, evoking the busy, frenetic energy of the bees.


Crossing The Water is a masterful collection of poetry that showcases Sylvia Plath's skill and artistry as a writer. It is a deeply personal exploration of her innermost thoughts and emotions, as well as a reflection on the larger human condition. Her use of vivid imagery and musical language creates a powerful emotional impact, drawing the reader into her world of disillusionment and despair.

While Crossing The Water is a haunting and often difficult collection, it is also a work of great beauty and significance. Plath's exploration of themes like death, disillusionment, and isolation speaks to the universal human experience, and her poetry continues to resonate with readers today.

Editor 2 Analysis and Explanation

Poetry is a medium that has the power to evoke emotions and touch the deepest parts of our souls. Sylvia Plath's "Crossing the Water" is a classic example of how poetry can be used to express complex emotions and ideas in a simple yet profound manner. In this 2000-word analysis, we will delve into the themes, imagery, and literary devices used in this poem to understand its deeper meaning.

"Crossing the Water" is a short poem consisting of three stanzas, each with four lines. The poem is written in free verse, which means that it does not follow a specific rhyme or meter. This form of poetry allows the poet to focus on the content and the emotions they want to convey without being restricted by the structure of the poem.

The poem's title, "Crossing the Water," immediately sets the tone for the poem. Water is often used as a symbol of life, and in this poem, it represents the journey of life. The act of crossing the water is a metaphor for the journey we all take from birth to death. The journey is not always smooth, and there are often obstacles and challenges that we must overcome.

The first stanza of the poem sets the scene for the journey. Plath writes, "Black lake, black boat, two black, cut-paper people." The use of the color black creates a sense of darkness and foreboding. The lake and the boat are both black, which suggests that the journey is taking place at night or in a dark place. The "cut-paper people" are a metaphor for the fragility of life. Like cut-paper, life can be easily torn apart and destroyed.

The second stanza of the poem introduces the idea of loss. Plath writes, "Where do the black trees go that drink here?" The black trees are a metaphor for people who have passed away. The fact that they are drinking from the lake suggests that they are still present in some way, but they are not visible to the living. The use of the word "go" suggests that they have moved on to another place, perhaps the afterlife.

The third stanza of the poem brings the journey to a close. Plath writes, "Here, by the roots of an old tree, I come to thee." The use of the word "thee" suggests that the speaker is addressing someone specific, perhaps a loved one who has passed away. The old tree represents the end of the journey, and the roots represent the foundation of life. The speaker has reached the end of their journey and has found peace.

The themes of loss, death, and the journey of life are prevalent throughout the poem. Plath uses imagery and literary devices to convey these themes in a powerful and emotional way. The use of the color black creates a sense of darkness and foreboding, which is a common theme in Plath's work. The metaphor of the black trees drinking from the lake suggests that death is not the end, but rather a transition to another place.

The use of free verse allows Plath to focus on the content and the emotions she wants to convey. The lack of rhyme and meter creates a sense of freedom and allows the poem to flow naturally. The short stanzas create a sense of urgency and suggest that the journey is not a long one.

In conclusion, "Crossing the Water" is a powerful and emotional poem that explores the themes of loss, death, and the journey of life. Plath uses imagery and literary devices to convey these themes in a simple yet profound manner. The use of free verse allows her to focus on the content and the emotions she wants to convey without being restricted by the structure of the poem. The poem is a classic example of how poetry can be used to express complex emotions and ideas in a simple yet profound manner.

Editor Recommended Sites

GPT Prompt Masterclass: Masterclass on prompt engineering
Crypto Jobs - Remote crypto jobs board: Remote crypto jobs board
Code Talks - Large language model talks and conferences & Generative AI videos: Latest conference talks from industry experts around Machine Learning, Generative language models, LLAMA, AI
Run Knative: Knative tutorial, best practice and learning resources
ML Education: Machine learning education tutorials. Free online courses for machine learning, large language model courses

Recommended Similar Analysis

Cannonization , The by John Donne analysis
Sonnet 104: To me, fair friend, you never can be old by William Shakespeare analysis
Remember by Christina Georgina Rossetti analysis
The Coming Of Arthur by Alfred, Lord Tennyson analysis
Our Bog Is Dood by Stevie Smith analysis
He fumbles at your Soul by Emily Dickinson analysis
Another Way Of Love by Robert Browning analysis
L 'Envoi by Rudyard Kipling analysis
Little Gidding by Thomas Stearns Eliot analysis
Good Hours by Robert Lee Frost analysis